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My Thoughts On: The Oscars (2016)

OH MY SWEET LORDY LOO! THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I WATCHED THE OSCARS AND HAD ENOUGH PRIOR KNOWLEDGE TO GET INVESTED IN WHO WOULD WIN!!!! *Ahem* I have been more anxious waiting for this moment than the release of The Force Awakens! Needless to say, I am excited to share my opinions on what has undoubtedly been one of the most (if not the most) unpredictable, surprising, and unique Oscar years in film history. I will briefly talk about every major category (except for Adapted Screenplay, and both Actress categories because I did not see the films that won) and any other moments during the show that deserve a mention. Also, this review/reflection will contain spoilers, and my very passionate responses and opinions. I will definitely disagree with other people’s Oscar preferences, but that is what constructive criticism is for.

Let’s begin with Chris Rock as the host. While I think that he went overboard with the “no Oscar nods for blacks” jokes, it’s not like any of them offended me (the jokes practically do write themselves) but variety is an important rule of comedy, and I think he should have had a few more different jokes in his opening (however the edited Best Picture compilation was absolutely hilarious!). Also, his Girl Scout cookies thing should have been cut entirely. I still can’t tell if it was a joke, or if was for real. Hey, if Ellen DeGeneres can order pizzas and hand them out when she hosted, then Rock should be able to use cute little girl scouts to emotionally manipulate people into buying their cookies (just sayin’). All that said, at least Rock was funnier than Neil Patrick Harris.

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS-Ex Machina

While I think that Mad Max: Fury Road or The Force Awakens had better effects throughout, Ex Machina definitely had some dang great F/X for its modest budget of 15 million. The CGI on the AI is completely convincing, so I think they deserve it.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR-Inside Out

You’re not going to believe this, but I have not seen any of the other nominated animated movies. That was not my intention, but I had no idea that most of the other nominees (Anomalisa, When Marnie was There, Boy & the World) even existed! In any case, Inside Out definitely deserves the win! Pete Docter gave a great mini-speech (which I think was improvised), but I expect no less from one of the best screenwriters in the film industry.

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY-Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant

Was there any doubt that The Revenant would win? They shot it with nothing but natural lighting (which is still remarkably impressive)! If Lubezki continues his current level of quality, he could very well out-do Roger Deakins when it comes to composing a shot. Congrats on your third Oscar Lubezki!

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SONG-“Writings On The Wall” (by Sam Smith and James Napier) for Spectre

I was very certain that “Till It Happens to You” would win (it is the most dramatic of the 5 nominees), but I always wanted “Writings On The Wall” to win. Why? Because Sam Smith’s voice in angelic! Besides that, it fits the slightly more romantic tone of Spectre (as Bond does find love with Madeline). To be fair, “Earned It” is pretty exceptional, and “Manta Ray” is beautiful.

 

BEST ACHEIVMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SCORE-Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight

The Man, the Myth, the Legend, the great Ennio Morricone. Who doesn’t love this composer’s work? He has been giving us memorable (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly), suspenseful (The Thing-1982), beautiful (The Mission), and awesome (practically anything he’s done) film scores since the 60’s. Did anyone else notice that he got substantially more time to give his speech than everyone else? They probably did this because he needed to have his speech translated. I’d like to think that the musicians purposefully waited until he was done before they cued the music, as a sign of respect for this ingenious artist. Also, c’mon man, no nomination for Michael Giacchino’s score for Inside Out? Now that’s a real snub.

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING-Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road

My freaking gosh. Six Oscars for Fury Road. This is beyond my wildest expectations, which were quite wild after Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture! Needless to say, I think Fury Road is the most critically successful action movie ever made (at least with the Academy)! I think film editing is the most difficult kind of editing there is; therefore I believe that Sixel deserved the win. I can imagine that Fury Road must have been extremely temperamental to make, but well worth it.

 

BEST WRITING, ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY-Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight

What do I always say? The story is always the most important element in a production. Unless the point of the product is to not have a plot (like a pretty vase or something) or narrative, the story aspect matters most (check out my Terminator Genisys review for more info). Spotlight is 2015’s The Imitation Game. A movie about a controversial topic in history, a group of individuals who fight not for fame but for what is right, and written/acted/directed extraordinarily well! This is how you take a simple story, add style and creativity to make something extraordinary.

 

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING-Alejandro González Iñárritu for The Revenant

Again, was there any doubt? Actually yes, George Miller for Fury Road. Am I the only one who finds it funny that one R rated epic featuring Tom Hardy took place in the scorching desert and the other took place in the frozen tundra? The Revenant is one of the best “experience” movies ever made, and Iñárritu deserves the win for his incredible vision and passion that seeps into every frame of the movie.

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE-Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

Ok, this is the one win that I completely disagree with. Of course Rylance was great in the role, but not as impactful as the intensely committed Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight. I am absolutely certain that if that running joke, “Would it help?” was not in Bridge of Spies, than Rylance wouldn’t have even been nominated (much less win). Again, commendable performance, just not better than the competition.

 

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE-Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant

FINALLY!!!!! I have not been this happy since I was baptized! I was worried like never before. Why? Because I am 100% certain that at least one member of the Academy thought, “Hey guys. Wouldn’t it be funny if we didn’t give Leo the Oscar so the stupid running gag can keep going?” There is nothing you can say or do that would convince me otherwise. This man has been giving his all since he became popular, and he has created some of the most recognizable performances acting in some of the best and unique movies of the 21st century. To say that it feels great for him to finally win, is an understatement X 10! Now that annoying running joke can end, and I can watch Inception with less frustration knowing that the leading actor has won the highest of cinema’s honors.

 

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR-Spotlight

You’ve heard everyone say that 2015’s Oscars has been one of the most unpredictable years in history, and there was no better category than Best Picture to prove that. I genuinely thought they were going with The Revenant. However, Spotlight’s central story and drama would probably make more sense if we’re talking about the Academy. In this case, I couldn’t be happier. The film I ranked second best of 2015 won Best Picture! I think even Morgan Freeman was slightly surprised when he read the envelope! I must say, when it comes to the quintessential ceremony that no one seems to be satisfied with, most of my preferences were met.

 

You were probably expecting me to go into greater detail about the controversy surrounding the Oscars this year. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve been in this industry long enough to (essentially) call the Academy racist, also, I kinda didn’t see Creed, Beasts of No Nation, Concussion, or Straight Outta Compton (I did not intend for that to happen, my apologies). I don’t think I have all the necessary information to make a compelling argument. However, one thing is for certain, the Academy is fully aware that big changes need to be made.

Some people think that the Academy Awards mean nothing. While I see where they are coming from, I must disagree. The gold-plated Oscar award is the most prestigious award anyone in the film industry can receive. It’s essentially a Medal of Honor for filmmakers. It stays with the winner for life, it proves that you did extraordinarily well in your field, and people (producers especially) will look at you with more respect and consideration (at least that is what they are meant to stand for, over the years that meaning has changed, but such is life). This was the 88th award ceremony! They are still going strong, and at least for me, this particular year’s awards went to who deserved them the most.

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Roots (1977 TV Mini-Series)

Roots had quite the impact on American culture after its release, as it showcased the really brutal side of what it felt like to be an African-American slave before the American Civil War. Alex Haley, the writer of the novel (and producer of the TV series), wanted to explore his ancestry and he recorded his findings and later published them as a novel titled “Roots.” The book was a major hit, gaining both critical praise, and winning the Pulitzer Prize. Haley’s combination of rich history and gripping storytelling caught the attention of ABC, who adapted it into a teleplay for a mini-series. A series that would get over 130 million views, one Golden Globe for Best Drama, and nine Emmys. Thirty-eight years later, a young film reviewer’s father would “ask” him to watch this series so that he might appreciate his ancestry a little more. While looking up the series on IMDb, that reviewer would notice that there was a continuation of the series in 1979, a TV movie in 1988, and a remake of the original series would be released in 2016. Figuring that he would have to see the remake, he might as well review the original series. This my friends, is that review.

Roots was created by Alex Haley and adapted by: William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Alex Haley, Ernest Kinoy, and James Lee. Stars: LeVar Burton, Olivia Cole, John Amos, Leslie Uggams, and Ben Vereen. Premise-Alex Haley recounts the life of one of his earliest ancestors: Kunta Kinte (and his descendants), an African boy who was taken from his home to the newly colonized United States of America to become a slave.

I might as well address this before I say anything else. This series is very brutal, disgustingly accurate, and doesn’t hold back. By that I mean that you see the violence, racism, and gritty drama that once was accepted in this country. If you are squeamish when it comes to violence, don’t like racial mistreatment, or are easily offended, then you will probably want to steer clear of this series. Even I have to admit that I found many of the episodes to be unbearably depressing and brutal, which is a testament to how well this series tells its story.

The first things I have to mention are the technical aspects. The camerawork, lighting, set design, costumes, makeup, and sound mixing are top notch. I hear that the budget was over 6 million dollars, and that greatly befitted the production, especially the cinematography, which looks beautiful. They were also able to hire pitch-perfect actors for their respective roles. There is not a single lackluster performance in this mini-series. There are even a few entertaining cameos every now and then (Charles Cyphers, O.J. Simpson, Cicely Tyson, Burl Ives, and Ian McShane to name a few).

As far as storytelling goes, it is pretty rock solid. Haley combined factual history and fictional conflicts and characters to make Roots all the more powerful. Granted, some may think a character or two is over-the-top or unrealistic, but that didn’t bother me. What did bother me was how depressing the tone could get! Seriously, even when a happy moment shows up in this series, something terrible will happen and ruin the moment. If you ask me, this happens too often to be considered realistic, or tolerable. Other than that, the only thing that bothered me was the (often) slow pacing.

I know, I don’t have that much to say about the series itself, but to state the truth, the legacy and impact of this mini-series is more interesting than the series itself! What else is there to say? Roots is a great accomplishment on many levels and receives Guy’s Guru Grade of an A.

Wayward Pines (TV Mini-Series) Review

Let’s talk about M. Night Shyamalan, the guy who wrote and directed: Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender (one of the worst movies ever made). However, he also wrote and directed: Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense (one of the best movies ever made). Yes, it seemed for the longest time that Shyamalan lost his touch big time. But through it all, I noticed something. After he hit his lowest point (The Last Airbender), his work started to increase (albeit slowly) in quality. Devil was stupid, but had a few chilling thrills and ideas, After Earth was boring, but not insulting or disgraceful, but Wayward Pines (which he is producing) may be a good omen signifying Shyamalan’s career has finally gotten back on track. Wayward Pines was created by Chad Hodge and stars: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Melissa Theo, Hope Davis, and Terrence Howard. Premise- Secret service agent Ethan Burke (Dillon) travels to Wayward Pines, Idaho in search of two missing agents. He quickly realizes something is terribly off about the seemingly normal town.

The acting in this mini-series is astounding! Particularly the supporting cast of: Toby Jones, Melissa Leo, Michael McShane, and Terrence Howard (Matt Dillon is also a great lead)! Even the kid they got to play Ethan’s teenage son, Ben (Charlie Tahan) was able to convey: confusion, interest, and sympathy pretty well for his age. Considering this show had many directors, I’ll just say this: Shyamalan (Episode 1) was the best director followed by Jeff T. Thomas (Ep 6), while Tim Hunter (Eps 8, 10) is probably the worst director. The story is definitely the best aspect of this series. This show had 10 writers working on different episodes and yet the story remained: interesting, creepy, thrilling, and very well-paced from beginning to end. The overall tone of this series builds extraordinarily well, but when episode 3 (Our Town, Our Law) ends, that, is when things really start to pick up. The overall tone of Wayward Pines consistently stayed unsettling and mysterious, so I was always invested in what would happen next. There are many plot twists which kept me guessing (I like stories that are getting the viewer involved like that) and when the ultimate truth is finally revealed, you will be flabbergasted like never before.

The only negatives I can think of for this show are few, but sadly, annoying. For one, the love interest to Ben Burke. Yeah there’s one of those in this show. I don’t remember much about her character, mostly because she exists to be the love interest to the main character. She does a few plot relevant things, but now that I think about it, those actions could have easily been done by a more developed character: Ben’s teacher (Davis). Unfortunately, this series has one of the worst endings I have ever seen in a TV show. Aside from the final episode (Cycle) trying way too hard to be scary instead of threatening, the last 2 minutes completely ruin the whole storyline. If you watch this series (and I highly suggest you do) when the camera fades to black the first time, immediately turn off the TV. If you watch any further, you’ll be incredibly frustrated. Those 2 minutes could have (and should have) been cut, but for whatever reason they made it into the final product.

Setting aside the last episode, I thoroughly enjoyed Wayward Pines. It has outstanding acting, a creepily intriguing tone, and best of all, a smart, thrilling, and interesting story. Welcome back to glory M. Night, I look forward to The Visit. Wayward Pines gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+. On a side note, what did you guy’s think of my first TV review? Post a comment if you so desire, and thank you all!